There are 12 thoughts on “Was Joseph Smith Smarter Than the Average Fourth Year Hebrew Student? Finding a Restoration-Significant Hebraism in Book of Mormon Isaiah”.

  1. I’ve enjoyed reading Paul’s article and the comments after it as well. Steve Skabelund, this is your old law school classmate thanking you for the article you also attached. As I read the Paul’s paper and comments, I was reminded that Avraham Gileadi, no stranger to Hebrew himself, years ago in his lectures and book “The Book of Isaiah” explained that the reference in Isaiah 2:2 to “mountain of the Lord’s house” should be interpreted as the nation or land in which the Lord’s house is located, and the “top of the mountains” referred to that nation or land which is preeminent among all other nations. The “hills” were lesser nations. This explanation clarifies why in the Old Testament the land of Gilead or the land of Ephraim or other places were referred to often as “mount Gilead”or “mount Ephraim”, etc., because of the multiple meanings attached to the Hebrew words for mountain or mount. If Gileadi’s interpretation is correct, then Isa. 2: 2 and 2 Nephi 12:2 could be read to mean simply that in the latter days people will go to the Lord’s dwelling place in the New Jerusalem on the American continent to learn of His ways.

    • Latter-day Saints commonly misunderstand Isaiah 2:1-3 (and parallel texts) to refer to a Latter-day Saint temple. As Jeffrey Chadwick systematically pointed out during his October 26, 2013, Sperry Symposium presentation, the context is clearly the Kingdom of Judah and old Jerusalem, and one can read his published argument in Seely, Chadwick, and Grey, eds., Ascending the Mountain of the Lord: Temple, Praise, and Worship in the OT, 2nd ed. (Deseret Book, 2013), 367-383, or view it on YouTube at .
      Moreover, in his 1841 prayer on the Mount of Olives dedicating Palestine to the final gathering of the Jews, Elder Orson Hyde specifically included the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem by the Jews. We need to fight the common tendency to forget what that means, and we need to avoid the Catholic and Protestant error of supersessionism.

  2. Daniel 3:17 is another possible example of “if/and” usage that I’ve noticed. If the “and” were changed to “then”, it would say the following, “If it be [that] our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, then he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.”

  3. After reading the Abstract and looking up 2 Nephi 12:2 in my wife’s scriptures (which were nearby at the time), I successfully predicted that this article would suggest that an “and” should be understood as a “then,” which would then complete the “when” found at the beginning of the verse. I could make this prediction because I had figured this out several years earlier after either reading and/or hearing Royal Skousen talk about the “if/and” Hebrew construct.
    During my mission (1986-1987) I had noticed that the “when” found in 2 Nephi 12:2 was never resolved, and wondered where the “then” should have appeared in the text that followed. I even wrote “then?” in red ink in the margin to remind me that something was missing. Years later after learning about the “if/and” Hebrew construct, and marking the examples cited in my Book of Mormon, I also found that it could solve the mystery I had first noticed on my mission.
    After reading the above article, I immediately picked up my Book of Mormon to see if I had noted this in my book, and found that I had written in black ink “then?” in the little white space immediately after the end of verse 2 with an arrow pointing up to the last “and” in verse 2.
    Although I can’t prove anything (my note is not dated, but my best guess is sometime during 2012-2013, although I have no way of really knowing), I was glad to find that I had independently discovered the “when/and” = “when/then” possibility prior to reading this article. Maybe I should publish my scriptural notes . . . ? Nah. Nice article, though. You went to a far greater depth than I ever would have and I enjoyed the explanation and information very much. (I’m a little surprised Royal didn’t find it. 😉

  4. Utah The Riddle behind the name
    by Lynn Arave Deseret News staff writer
    Deseret News July 10, 1994
    What’s in a name?
    Plenty if you’re talking about “Utah,” because there’s considerable disagreement in history and reference books regarding the original meaning of the name for America’s 45th state. This is one topic where the record would best be set straight before the state’s centennial in 1996.
    Consult five different history books, and you’ll likely receive five variations on the meaning of the word Utah.
    Two of the more common meanings ascribed to the word are “top of the mountains” and “people of the mountains.”
    You’d think if anyone has the definitive answer on what the name Utah really means, it should be members of the Ute Indian Tribe. But according to Larry Cesspooch, public relations director for the audio/visual department of the Ute Tribe in Fort Duchesne, the Utes don’t even have such a word in their language.
    He said Utah – Anglicized from “Yuta” — is what the Spanish called the Utes, and his research indicates it meant “meat eaters.” Cesspooch has used this explanation in various public presentations, and he said he’s never been challenged on it.
    The Ute name for themselves as a people is “Noochee” — meaning “the people,” Cesspooch said.
    Of the many books written about Ute Indians, few have come from tribe members themselves. However, Fred A Conetah, a Ute born in Fort Duchesne, wrote “A History of the Northern Ute People.” His account agrees with Cesspooch that the Utes own name for themselves is “Noochee.”
    Conetah, who died in 1980, stated that Spanish writers also referred to the Utes as “Quasutas,” a for of the word Yutas. This word apparently referred to all Indians who spoke a Shoshonean dialect.
    One of the most recent books written on the subject — “Utes, The Mountain People” — was published by Jan Pettit in 1990. This book says Utah’s name comes from the Ute word “Yutas,” also said to mean “the people.”
    Pettit also uses the word “mountain” in the title of her book because, she says, the neighboring Pueblo Indians referred to the Utes as “the mountain people.”
    W.H. Jackson, a photographer on the U.S. Geological Survey expedition to Utah in 1877, recorded an interesting description of the Utes. He reported: “The Utah, Yutas or Utas, as the name is variously written, occupy the mountainous portion of Colorado with parts of Utah, New Mexico and Nevada. Those living in the mountains where game abounds have a fine physical development, are brave and hardy and comparatively well to do.”
    So where did the “top of the mountains” reference to the Utes name originate?
    It is likely a “Mormonization” of Ute Tribe references to mountains and may have had its beginning in a verse in the Old Testament — Isaiah 2:2:
    “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.”
    The completion of the Salt Lake Temple at least partially fulfilled that prophecy for many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    It’s also amazing how many Utah history books skim over the origin of the stat’s name. Most provide ample detail of the meaning of Deseret — the original name provided for the territory and state — but usually provide only limited details about “Utah” itself.
    Spanish spellings of the word Utah also vary considerably.
    Here are a few of the published references to Utah and the Ute Indians — none of which is entirely correct or complete: The “Utah Place Names” book by John W. Van Cott (1990) states only that the word Utah was taken from native Ute Indians. It includes information about the name “Deseret,” but nothing else on the origins of the word “Utah.”
    “‘Utes,’ a term meaning ‘upper people’ or ‘hill dwellers.’ Early journals spelled the name a number of different ways, including Yuta, Eutaw, Utah, etc. Yuta was Anglicized to Utah.” — From a 1954 publication by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers.
    “The word ‘Utah’ means ‘top of the mountains’ and is derived from the Ute Indian language.” –From a Utah tourist brochure dated June 1955.
    “The word ‘Utah originated with the people inhabiting that region..of the Utah nation, which belongs to the Shoshone family. There were many tribes…There were the Pah Utes…and many others. Pah signifies water. …Pah Utes, Indians that live about the water.” –from Hubert H. Bancroft’s “History of Utah.” published in 1964.
    “Utah comes from the Ute tribe and means ‘people of the mountains.” –From the Information Please 1994 almanac.
    “Utah — from a Navajo word meaning upper, or higher up, as applied to a Shoshone tribe called Ute. Spanish form is Yutta. English is Uta or Utah.” –From The 1979 World Almanac and Book of Facts.
    “Ouray — Chief of the Utes,” a book by P. David Smith, refers to the Utes by a white man’s nickname — “The Blue Sky People.” It spells the word “Yutahs” and states that the word refers to the Utes as people who speak clearly.
    “People of the Shining Mountains,” by Charles S. Marsh, is titled after the nickname the Utes had for their own territory. This book spells the original Utah word from the Spanish “yuutaa.”
    The book “American Indians of the Southwest,” by Bertha P. Dutton, says the Utes called themselves “Nunt’z” a term that means “The people.”
    An article in the January 1928 Utah Historical Quarterly says “Utah” was originally spelled “Ute-ahs,” “Uintas,” or “”Wa-tue-weap-ah-ute-ah,” is said to mean “lad or country of the Utes.”
    23 state names stem from words of Indians
    Indian words are among the most popular sources for the naming of states — at least 23 owe their names to such words.
    Of course, American Indians already had pretty much everything named by the time the white explorers and settlers arrived on the continent, and so a lot of renaming took place.
    As with the origin of Utah’s name, Idaho’s is in dispute. By one source, the name Idaho is a coined word with an invented Indian meaning ” “gem of the mountains.” The name was supposedly originally given to Pike’s Peak mining territory in Colorado, then applied to this newer mining area of the Pacific Northwest. Other sources claim there is no clear cut knowledge where Idaho’s name comes from.
    Utah Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona encompass may places and features named after the Utes, but Utah’s state name is the most prominent of all. here are the brief origins of three other Western state names:
    Montana is a latinized Spanish word for “mountainous.”
    The origin of the name “Oregon” is unknown, but it apparently came from the writings of English army officers.
    “Nevada” is a Spanish term meaning “snowcapped.”

  5. I very much enjoyed reading this article. It helped me understand better the usage of Hebrew in its “if / then” English equivalent and helped me gain further insights on the genius that was Joseph Smith. Not by his “native abilities” but by the “gift and power of God”.
    I’ve been wanting to ask educated people about “on the top of the mountains”. Does “Utah” translate to that phrase or could it mean that phrase?

  6. Kudos and thank you for a most interesting, thought provoking, and informative paper. As Gilgamesh, above, has pointed out, it underscores the complexity of the Book of Mormon and makes one say that it truly is a marvel and a wonder.

  7. intereting article…. Won’t comment about the actual Hebrew analysis because I am not qualified, however, in my opinion what this can tell us is difficult because of the (hypothetical) numerous translation layers and other aspects about the text.
    However, no matter the issues, thanks Professor for an interesting and thought provoking article

  8. Wonderful article Dr Hoskisson. While evidences such as this will never be totally satisfying to those who doubt the authenticity of the book, to the believers to adds a depth to study that is helpful in appreciating to complexity of the text.

  9. This is a very thoughtful article which I enjoyed very much. Your points made about Joseph producing Hebraism in the Book of Mormon Isaiah are noteworthy indeed. However, I want to take issue with the following declarations:
    “Not only does 2 Nephi 12:2 with its unique insertion of when make perfect sense when the final and is understood as then, but the passage aligns perfectly with Restoration doctrine: When the Lord’s restoration in the latter days has introduced the saving ordinances, including especially temple work, then will people of all nations flow to the temples of the Restoration. After all, Isaiah 2:2 is talking about the Restoration in the latter days, and reading when … then resolves the meaning in a manner that astonishingly reflects the actual history of the Restoration.”
    What history of the restoration are you speaking about?
    It certainly cannot be the history of the restoration being spoken of in the 2nd chapter of Isaiah.
    By “restoration doctrine” you are obviously referring to the current correlated definition being proposed by the modern LDS Church, which assumes that the time of restoration being referred to in Isaiah 2 began with the ministry of Joseph Smith in the 1820s and 30s, rather than the “restoration doctrine” clearly presented in the 2nd chapter of Isaiah.
    This premise is problematic on many levels.
    It is certainly a romantic notion to think that Joseph’s ministry four generations ago resulted in modern day converts to the LDS church visiting the temple in Utah to do temple endowments. It is even more romantic to throw a global pilgrimage to all of the “temples of the Restoration” all over the world, despite the singular reference to a temple in a mountain, being spoken of in the passage.
    However, a contextual reading of verse two in conjunction with the rest of the chapter informs us that the time of restoration being spoken of by Isaiah results in the Lord judging and rebuking the nations, resulting in them, beating their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruninghooks, resulting in the obsolescence of war between nations.
    Do you honestly believe the so-called LDS restoration that took place over 160 years ago resulted in God judging and rebuking the nations and making war obsolete?
    Do you even see such a trend beginning to take place as we look at world events taking place around us four generations later?
    When did the wicked “..go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for the fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty?
    How did the LDS restoration result in, or take place in conjunction with the shaking of the earth “terribly”?
    If Joseph’s ministry marked the beginning of the “restoration” spoken of in Isaiah 2, Joseph apparently did not get the memo.
    According to him, the restoration takes place at the time that the two prophets spoken of in the Book of Revelation begin their ministry:
    15 Q. What is to be understood by the two witnesses, in the eleventh chapter of Revelation?
    A. They are two prophets that are to be raised up to the Jewish nation in the last days, at the time of the restoration, and to prophesy to the Jews after they are gathered and have built the city of Jerusalem in the land of their fathers. (D&C 77:15)
    When did these two prophets make their appearance?
    Is this not a future event?
    As some Book of Mormon scholars have pointed out, the time of restoration which is referred to as the marvelous work and a wonder in Isaiah and the Book of Mormon, is yet a future event.
    This future event includes the coming forth of the sealed portion of the plates. It is at this future time that a remnant of the gentiles will finally repent of their iniquity and become clean before the Lord.

  10. Excellent article and testimony.
    Joseph Smith did live up to and fulfilled his prophetic calling. Bro. Hoskisson’s article accents the marvelous work and wonder that is the Restoration. I like to say that if Joseph Smith’s testimony concerning the supernatural events of the Restoration are not true, then Joseph Smith still is a theological genius. As Einstein is to cosmology and physics so Joseph is to theology. But, Joseph’s testimony is true. He was callled of God and God has worked a marvelous work through him for all of us to admire, adhere to and sustain with all of our mortal efforts.

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